Selections from Labyrinth Breath: A New Translation of Mario Santiago’s Work

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Today, we celebrate the continuing legacy of Mexican poet Mario Santiago Papasquiaro (1953-1998) with the publication of ten selections, in both Spanish and English, from Labyrinth Breath (Respiración del Laberinto). This original English translation by Laura Patricia Burns is first-on-the-web here.

Spanning twenty five poems, Labyrinth Breath is an erotic and eclectic work originally selected by Santiago’s wife, Rebeca López. These poems first appeared after Santiago’s death across various DIY print projects, known as cartoneras (“book rats”).

Click the link to read free: Ten Poems From Labyrinth Breath.

You can hear two audio readings of Santiago’s (other) works translated by Laura here:

Reading of Advice From a Disciple Of Marx to a Fan of Heidegger 

Recording of the Infra-realist Manifesto



Collage 2017



Tomorrow is Cancelled

All the reasons for carrying out a revolution are present.  None is missing.  The sinking of politics, the arrogance of the powerful, the reign of the false, the vulgarity of the wealthy, the cataclysms of industry, rampant poverty, naked exploitation, ecological apocalypse – we are spared nothing, not even that of being informed.

                                           -The Invisible Committee, Maintenant.


Smartphone Manufacturers Settle Class Action Suit Over Spyware

As reported by Top Class Actions, a legal information news site, phone carriers have settled a $9 million law suit alleging surveillance software was installed on user’s smartphones.


“Smartphone and tablet consumers who bought a device manufactured by HTC, Huawei, LG, Motorola, Pantech Wireless, or Samsung with service on AT&T, Cricket, Sprint, or T-Mobile are eligible to join this class action settlement,” TCA’s Melissa LaFreniere wrote.

If you used certain phones or tablets between December 1, 2007 and March 1, 2016, this settlement could put money in your pocket. However, according to the settlement’s website, if claims exceed the allotted amount, the funds will instead be split in three equal parts and go to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Center for Democracy and Technology, and Carnegie Mellon University, respectively.

Smartphones have long been vulnerable to malware, spyware, and other forms of attack. In 2014, The Intercept reported that the National Security Agency (NSA) had developed the means to “covertly hack into computers on a mass scale by using automated systems”. The Intercept based their reporting on top secret documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

While admitting no wrongdoing, Carrier IQ and cell phone and tablet manufacturers settled allegations of keystroke logging, or the clandestine recording of everything typed on a device. This could include not only the text of emails, text messages, and social media posts, but highly sensitive information such as credit card numbers and bank passwords.

Carrier IQ, based in Sunnyvale California, has been at the center of keystroke allegations since late 2011, when a technology researcher reportedly observed the spyware activating on his own phone.  Watch one of of the original videos by Trevor Echkart below. If you jump to 11:37 in the video, the program on-screen appears to record all of the numbers that he types into the dialer.





Beauty is Our Spiritual Guernica: New Translations of Mario Santiago Papasquiaro


Mario Santiago Papasquiaro, Infrarealist

Commune Editions has released a new collection of Mario Santiago’s poetry, Beauty is Our Spiritual Guernica, which you can download for free here.  As I’ve written previously, Santiago was the leading voice of the Infrarealist movement that emerged from Mexico City in the 1970s. The poems within are a fitting testament to the bombastic, establishment-scorning artist and his acidic wordplay. Over email, translator Cole Heinowitz answered some questions about these powerful poems and the process of rendering them in English.


Cole Heinowitz, translator of Beauty Is Our Spiritual Guernica and other works by Santiago.

Paul Murufas: Tell me a little bit about yourself and your history as a translator.

Cole Heinowitz: Raised in an English-speaking household in a predominantly Mexican neighborhood, and attending a grammar school where instruction was in Spanish and English, I grew up bilingual. I came to poetry in the early 1990s when the San Diego-Tijuana border was a kind of cauldron of art, punk rock, and radical activism. NAFTA was passed the year my first book of poetry came out. One of my roommates at the time built radios for the EZLN. Another was jailed for midwifery. We painted a mural of Subcomandante Marcos on the front of the co-op we ran. I studied writing at UCSD when Kathy Acker, Eileen Myles, and Carla Harryman taught there. One year, we staged Carla’s Memory Play in Jerry Rothenberg’s studio (Jerry stole the show as the corpse). The door was open and David Antin kept walking by and peering in. I can’t remember Rae Armantrout’s character, but I think she was there. Those are my beginnings as a translator.

PM: When did you first become interested in translating Santiago? 

CH: I’ve been teaching literature at Bard College for the last 12 years. Five years ago or so, Alexis Graman, a wonderful painter who was in one of my seminars, asked to do a tutorial on Mario Santiago Papasquiaro (aka Ulises Lima, from Roberto Bolaño’s The Savage Detectives). Through Juan Villoro, I made contact with Mowgli Zendejas, Santiago’s son, in Mexico City. He had just returned from studying Buddhism in Japan and was setting up the first free-form radio station in DF. Jeta de Santo, the beautiful posthumous collection of Santiago’s work, had just been published by the Fondo de Cultura Económica. I think Alexis and I managed to buy the last of the original print run. The major bookstores in DF don’t carry it—but they say it’s in stock so Spain doesn’t send them more copies. Alexis and I read and reread it and decided to translate the 1975 poem Santiago launched like a missile on the Mexican literary establishment, Advice from 1 disciple of Marx to 1 Heidegger fanatic. It took us a year to translate. It’s insane.

PM: How did you link up with Commune Editions? 

CH: I met Juliana [Spahr] 15 years ago at a party in her backyard, back when she as living in Brooklyn. Five years later, we were on the Poetry Bus together in northern California. Then last year she got in touch to say she’d loved reading Advice and asked if I had other unpublished translations of Santiago’s work—especially any pieces where his politics were in the foreground.

PM: How did you select the various poems and works that make up Beauty Is Our Spiritual Guernica? How did you select the title? 

I picked the pieces where Santiago’s engagement with revolutionary politics is the most vivid and direct. The folks at Commune took the title from the poem “Dismirror.” That poem says a lot about Santiago’s radicalism.

PM: The poems seem to reflect an earlier period than the other Santiago poems I’ve read. What are the dates on these poems? How old would Santiago have been when he wrote these?

CH: Santiago was born in 1953 and Advice was his first published poem. He wrote consistently from 1975 to the year of his death in 1998, but no mainstream publisher wanted to touch him. He released two of his own books through his own imprint, East of Eden—one in 1995 and one in 1996. After Santiago’s death, when his widow Rebeca López and his friend Mario Raúl Guzmán went through his manuscripts to make the selections for Jeta de Santo, they chose 161 poems out of more than 1,500. Who knows how many more are scrawled in the margins of books Santiago borrowed or stole, on bar coasters, magazine covers, and paper bags. Many are probably in a landfill somewhere in the Sonora Desert. To date his poems with accuracy, you have to trace publication dates in obscure literary magazines, study the different color pens he used, or know former Infrarealists. Basically, the pieces in Beauty were written between 1976 and 1996.


The 1968 Tlatelolco Massacre was a vital influence on Santiago and the Infrarealists.

PM: What are your favorite pieces in the collection? 

CH: That’s hard since the pieces in that collection are all among my favorites. I love the prose piece, “Second-Hand Heroes: Six Young Mexican Infrarealists”—a seething account of coming of age in Mexico City during the Tlatelolco Massacre:

In 1968: less than 15 years old / watching gringo shows on T.V. / soldiers in the streets / flesh and blood communists agitating everywhere. Onward from there: living experience, living nightmare, living utopia / Emotion, sensation, the certainty of diving into chasms every moment transforming / Radical vagabonds, fugitives from the bourgeois university (the mediocrity of teaching is the teaching of mediocrity)… You can smell the hot days coming, full of blood / There’s a revolution going on in our skins.

Phrases from other poems (“the gunned-down laughter of the dead;” “To hell with Marx / he’s washed in the piss of Utopia”) are permanently etched in my brain. But I guess my favorite pieces are the ones where critique, defiance, and humor emerge alongside an unexpected, almost clumsy, tenderness:

What heroic act

what keatonesque face

will be left us

except the 1 where we catalelepticoluciferianistically

position ourselves like corpses

on the salt-back of 1 imaginary railroad

& there / from that position / from that enclosure

walk our least gnarled paw

across the least melted spotlight of our eyes

until we can’t tell the hairs on our head from the hair on our balls

the eruptions of Mount Venus

from the lava of the Vigilant Mind

While we sing on empty stomachs

1 euphoric thick hot cacao of a tune: There’s no future

(from “Did you notice how the Seine doesn’t look us in the eye anymore & how they filled the Gare de Lyon with propaganda offering $$ for the capture of the Baader Meinhoff Group?”)

PM: Infrarealism might have sunk into obscurity without Bolaño’s runaway fame train after his death. Is there an opening today for a new Infrarealism, or a permutation of it? 

CH: “I kill what I speak / :: Swan’s howl ::” That’s the last couplet of the poem “Swan’s Howl.” No, I don’t think there’s an opening today for a new Infrarealism, anymore than there’s an opening for a new surrealism. Infrarealism was born in an ecstasy of extinction. Nowadays, most writers who were working in Mexico during the 1970s and 1980s either memorialize it or dismiss it. On the other hand, Infrarealism doesn’t need a new opening—it’s already living inside us. As Santiago put it in “Ecce Homo,” “There’s no larva that hasn’t caught my virus.”

PM: Talk a little bit about these very visceral, passionate poems in Beauty. Santiago’s ability to supercharge language is something really rare in poetry today (at least for me). How was that for translating? And for reading in the original? 

CH: In the original Spanish, the first thing that comes through is the poems’ incredible velocity—both in their colloquial speech rhythms and in their rapid-fire images. Their physical force bursts through every channel. No matter how you translate the poems, that power inevitably comes through. The cultural and historical specificity of Santiago’s language—from his 1970s street-speak to his use of Nahuatl words—is the biggest challenge. I couldn’t have known, for example, that ornitorrinca used to be a way to describe an inexplicably attractive woman with a savage, almost ugly look. The word doesn’t exist in any Spanish dictionary—ornitorrinco means platypus, but it always has a masculine ending. Tlachiquero (the person who extracts the juice of the maguey from which pulque is made)—that was another impossible one to bring over into English. But these are words that most Spanish speakers wouldn’t know either…

PM: Do you have any translation work or creative writing that you’re working on now? 

CH: I’m working on a collected Santiago, which is an oxymoron because so much of what he wrote has disappeared. So it’s really not a collected, but the biggest selected works I can make out of what he published during his lifetime and the papers he left behind. I’m also working on a new play and a collection of poems addressed to people I have known in some way, both living and dead.

For Californians, Paris Attacks Mean Tragedy at Home


Nohemi Gonzalez 1992-2015

23 year old CSU Long Beach student Nohemi Gonzalez was killed at a Paris cafe Friday, in a series of coordinated strikes by ISIS lunatics that have left 129 dead and hundreds more injured. A university spokesperson told reporters that Nohemi was out for the night with other Long Beach students when she was killed by gunfire, but her peers are reported to be safe and accounted for. Gonzalez was one of 17 CSULB students studying abroad in Paris.

Design Professor Michael Laforte told ABC7 that Gonzalez was “a star” in her class, and her peers spoke of her kindness and uplifting sense of humor. Gonzalez’s aunt, Sandra Felt, said “she was something else,” and that the family was initially in a state of disbelief when they heard the news of her death.

Nohemi Gonzalez was a California native, hailing from El Monte, in the San Gabriel Valley near East Los Angeles. A vigil for Nohemi is set for 4:00PM on Sunday, November 15th, at the Friendship Walk near Cal State Long Beach’s University Union.

The majority of the casualties were in Le Bataclan Concert Hall, during the show of Southern California’s Eagles of Death Metal. While the band played, men armed with suicide vests and kalashnikovs started firing from the balconies, spraying so many bullets that they were able to reload and continue firing. The band was able to escape out the back unharmed when the shooting started, but several European employees of the band’s label, Universal Music Group, were slain.

Eagles of Death Metal are now headed back to the United States, burdened with personal losses of their own. Rolling Stone reported Saturday that Nick Alexander, the band’s merchandise manager, is among the dead.

The Paris attacks were an instant international tragedy, with Mexico, Chile, The United Kingdom, and the United States having all confirmed that one or several of their citizens died as a result of the Friday attacks, which count many young adults among their victims.

Friday’s bloodbath follows on the heels of numerous other major attacks launched by ISIS this year, including the downing of a Russian passenger jet over Egypt and a suicide attack in Lebanon.  Two separate bombings on Kurds, leftists and anarchists in Turkey have reportedly been connected to ISIS affiliates.